Good for a Turn
With the Wii U release of Robot Invader’s iOS success Wind-up Knight 2, the diminutive Sir Sprint has dashed his way to a stage perhaps a couple times his outsize. Though its take on the infini-runner genre (which really caught fire as a mobile phenomenon) is charming enough in its own right, Wind-up Knight 2 offers an ultimately lightweight, casual package that feels much more suited for its iOS roots than big-screen platforms. It’s a game I’d sooner boot up for a quick train ride over a living room binge. Kind of like a real life wind-up toy, Sir Sprint’s track-and-field feats are fun for a few cranks, but after a while all that winding gets a little tiresome.
Somewhere out there a princess needs saving (again), and so Sir Sprint must—you guessed it—sprint, but also jump, slash, and roll his way through a variety of run-of-the-mill fantasy castles and forests to save her. The low-res, cartoony visuals look about as good as you might expect from an iOS-to-big screen port, but the art direction is winsome enough to carry the day. The same can be said for the lighthearted humor peppered throughout Sprint’s adventure, delivered in the form of contemporary style office memos and pseudo-tweets (or Ravens) from characters like King Hercule IV (@Hercule IV-eva: “ATTENTION SUBJECTS: the royal chef made me an awesome omelette. Be #jealous”).
If you’ve ever played Temple Run or Canabalt, you already know the drill: run (and run and run) and collect shiny things while avoiding traps, monsters, and other devilry. In Sir Sprint’s particular iteration of the formula, the shinies consist of things like gold coins, gems, and magic gnome hats, all of which wait inconveniently across stages laden with spike pits, catapults, and evil gryphons. At each level players encounter progressively tricker traps and obstacles, receiving a letter grade up to S based on how many collectibles they can snag in a given run. Completing a stage for the first time unlocks its Side Quests—three for each—that introduce new mechanics and dimensions of difficulty, forcing players to rethink how they might navigate the same level. The variety of Side Quests ultimately proves a bit limited, though, and some of them vary the actual gameplay more meaningfully than others. Avoiding poisonous coins, for instance, is more or less the same idea as getting through a stage without killing a single enemy—more stuff to jump over, roll under—just in different visual trimmings. Fun or not (eh), completing Side Quests is required to progress through the entire game, so committed knights should prepare for a grind.
That being said, there’s still plenty of platforming goodness here to warrant more than a few winds. The mostly tight, responsive controls lend satisfying precision to Sprint’s endless jumping, blocking and slashing—precision that becomes all the more important as new environmental obstacles appear. Like any competent platformer, Wind-up Knight 2 will put your reflexes and timing to the test: only by wall jumping at a certain angle and speed, for instance, might you avoid those thorns and snatch that hidden gnome hat, or that energy-replenishing wind-up key. And luckily Sir Sprint comes well equipped for the task. Though armed from the get-go with a basic sword, shield, helm, and body armor, players can later spend all those shiny coins on new ability-imparting equipment. Flame jets toasting your progress? Invest in fire-resistant armor and negate the obstacle entirely. It’s a fittingly uncomplex, enjoyable system, and one that gives Sir Sprint’s campaign an extra dimension of long-term progress and reward.
But for those who can sleep at night knowing Sprint’s armory lacks a few pieces, there might not be much keeping you in the long run. There’s local pass-and-play multiplayer, and an unlocked Tournament Mode where players vie for online leaderboard position, but these features are also available in the iOS version (free with in-app purchases). The $7.50 Wii U version offers the full game without the need for additional purchases, which is definitely nice, but don’t expect any new or console-exclusive features beyond this. For my money, I’ll stomach a few in-app credit card swipes if it means I can bring this casual platformer on the go—with the same graphics and features, no less—where its lighthearted, short-session gameplay seems most at home. Much like the clockwork knight himself.